astronomy | geology | geography | meteorology | mythology | and more

What is StarLab?

Through an immersive, interactive experience, students discover just how exciting learning can be. In the StarLab inflatable planetarium, they travel through a world of knowledge that includes astronomy, geology, geography, meteorology, mythology, and more.

Learning about science in the inflatable dome brings plenty of oohs and ahs. More than that, it inspires students to engage in a better understanding of the world around them.


Why replace the existing StarLab?

The current inflatable dome has weathered the storm of tens of thousands of Mounds View elementary school children who have passed through its doors.

Technology has advanced tremendously over the years. The newest StarLab has state-of-the-art software and projection technology.

Student impact

More than 4,800 students experience StarLab each school year. The portable planetarium travels to all six elementary schools and a kindergarten center. Every student receives two days of intergalactic instruction.

Kirsten Dawson

Mounds View alum, retired staff and former MVSEF Trustee

“As the mother of a first iteration StarLab student, I remember my son’s anticipation, excitement, and mystique of having class in this fort-like/blimp-like structure. The unique physicality combined with high impact learning set StarLab science lessons apart from the ordinary classroom. Teachers gave this experience the privilege spin… “not every school has a StarLab! This device was often a student’s first introduction to the night sky.”


9th Grade Mounds View Student

“Thank you for fostering my interest in science. StarLab is what first got me hooked and I love astronomy to this day. That excitement now branches beyond astronomy and science has become my favorite subject. I credit you for inspiring my curiosity and passion to learn more about the world and our universe."

Lindsey Samec

Principal, Valentine Hills Elementary

“StarLab is a highly anticipated part of the science experience for all students. The extension beyond the classroom immediately engages all students, masking the learning through interactive opportunities and storytelling.”

Molly (Olson) Selva

Mounds View High School class of 2001, Engineer & Program Management - International Space Station and Lunar Gateway

“When I look up at the night sky, I see so much more than just specks of light against a dark canvas. I see Orion, Ursa Major, Polaris, and Cassiopeia. I remember the stories of Castor and Pollux, and Perseus and Medusa. But more than just the wonder and fables, I have knowledge of the science of the stars’ formation and the physics of how the Earth spins on its axis to unveil different constellations at different times of the night and year. My knowledge on these subjects started when I was six years old as a result of having the StarLab as part of the school district’s science curriculum. The StarLab was without a doubt the foundation of my lifelong passion for space which lead me to a career in engineering and program management for the International Space Station and future human deep space exploration programs."

Paul Dye

MVHS Class of 1977, Flight Director - NASA Human Spaceflight Program (retired)

"While we didn’t have anything as sophisticated as the StarLab program at that time, I am sure that I would have taken advantage of it if the capability was there. Not all students that use it will necessarily become astronomers, but it will whet their appetites in some way to pursue their dreams and interests - and that is really the best thing that can come out of any school. Students need to be exposed to as many possibilities as they can get, for you never know where they will end up.”

Grant Dawson

Executive Director - Keys 4/4 Kids, St. Paul, MN

“The StarLab curriculum at my elementary school was an annual highlight. That small inflatable planetarium opened up to me the wonders of the cosmos. Teaching young children about the universe -- its physics, its complexity, its unfathomable vastness -- is an educational imperative. Not only does it provide a foundation of science for future learning, it orients a child's mind away from the minute and towards the big. It changes a child's perspective. To have that lesson at such an early age is an uncommon luxury."

Jenna Hobbs

Psy.D., LP Clinical Director - Minnesota Clinic for Health & Wellness

“I hold fond memories of my adventures in the StarLab at Valentine Hills with Mrs. Kloncz, our science teacher and astronomy guide. She played special music ("Celestial Popcorn," if I recall correctly) that brought a true feeling of mystery, excitement, and awe to the experience of stargazing. To this day, I recall the names of some of the stars in the constellation Orion, as a result of my time under the StarLab dome. It was something we looked forward to all year, and I hope that the StarLab can continue to inspire future generations of Roadrunners to be curious and moved by the mystery and beauty of the cosmos.”

Daniel Tavernier

Valentine Hills Elementary School Alum, Cyber-Security Solutions Architect

"During elementary school, it was always exciting to see the seemingly huge silver dome being inflated in the library. Crawling into the darkness, seeing our white socks glow, and watching the constellations spin was wondrous and formative. To this day I am fascinated by the night sky and much of what I know stems directly from lessons learned inside StarLab. I wish all children could have that experience!"

Help purchase a new StarLab

Goal: $50,000 | Campaign dates: January 15 - June 15, 2020

Support Level
ORION $2,500 +
URSA MAJOR $1,000-$2,499
POLARIS $500-$999
CASSIOPEIA $250-$499
PERSEUS $249 & under


All donors to the MISSION: STARLAB campaign receive:

  • Invitation to the StarLab Community Celebration (Summer 2020)
  • Recognition at the 2020 MVSEF Luncheon, in the 2020 Report to the Community, and in local publications.

The Support Levels offer these additional gestures of gratitude as well.

The Mounds View Schools Education Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that works in partnership with district leadership to fund priorities that impact students throughout the Mounds View District. Our mission is simple – we support all of our schools.

Benefits of investing in a new StarLab

  • Enhanced software allows for video presentations strengthening instructional methods
  • Expanded curriculum content areas including science, geography & astronomy
  • Increased student interest and engagement in learning with the immersion experience
  • Reduced expenses associated with field trips, which require both financial resources and time away from school

Ask a question or share a StarLab memory

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